Shoo the Flu: Holiday Advice for Michigan Caregivers

Shoo the Flu: Holiday Advice for Michigan Caregivers

Holiday flu prevention tips

If you’ve watched the evening news anytime in the past few months, you know that the flu virus made its way across Michigan early this year. Some areas of the state have been especially hard hit. As is always the case, children, seniors and those living with chronic health conditions and weakened immune systems are at increased risk for contracting the virus. Now that the busy holiday season is upon us, we thought it was important to take a few minutes to remind Michigan’s family caregivers how they can best avoid getting bitten by the bug this year.

6 Ways to Avoid the Flu over the Holidays

Most of us spend more time interacting with others during the holidays than almost any other time of year. From holiday shopping to office parties, it isn’t easy to avoid coming in to contact with people who may have the flu. But there are a few things you can do to keep from getting it.

  1. Get your flu shot. The vaccine is the best way to shoo the flu. If you haven’t had yours for the year, make it a priority.
  2. Care for the caregiver. During the holidays, already busy caregivers feel even more overwhelmed. A lack of sleep and poor diet are often the result. Both lead to a rundown immune system that makes you more susceptible to the virus. Try to increase the amount of foods you eat that are rich in vitamins A, E, and C, and to take at least a 20 to 30 minute walk each day.
  3. No hugs or handshakes in public. While avoiding friendly contact can be difficult during the holidays, it can help prevent you from getting the flu. The virus is highly contagious and easily transmitted. Getting a hug or a handshake from a friend or colleague who may not be aware they have the flu can expose you to it.
  4. Soap and warm water. Washing your hands with warm, soapy water can help kill any viruses you may have been exposed to at work or when you are out in public. Health experts say you should wash your hands long enough to be able to sing a chorus of Yankee Doodle Dandy. Keep hand sanitizers with you for the times you won’t have access to soap and water.
  5. Stay home when you are ill. Calling in sick to work is something most people hesitate to do. But it is the fastest way for you to rest and recover, and the best way to prevent the virus from spreading.
  6. Antiviral medications help. If you are one of the unlucky ones who come down with the flu, call your doctor for an appointment as soon as you notice the first symptom. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say prescription antiviral medications can keep the flu from progressing and shorten the length of time you are sick.

To help consumers learn more about this year’s influenza virus and provide more prevention tips, The Department of Health and Human Services has developed flu.gov. Topics range from flu shot questions to risk factors.

 

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Flu Shots and Alzheimer’s

Flu Shots and Alzheimer’s

Flu Season in Michigan

Dear Donna:

My 82-year old father is in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Lately, he has become a little more difficult to manage. He is especially difficult to handle when I have to take him to the doctor. Fortunately, he goes to a geriatrician who is very understanding of and knowledgeable about Alzheimer’s disease.

In past years I have always taken my dad with me to the pharmacy flu shot clinic for his yearly vaccine. I’m on the fence this year about whether he should have a flu shot or not. He goes to an adult day center a few days a week and they are offering it there, but I’m just not sure he really needs it. He had a flu shot at the end of flu season last year, and I’m trying to decide if it’s worth the struggle it will likely be to get him to cooperate this year.

Gretchen in Grand Haven, Michigan

Dear Gretchen:

I’m sure you know that these behaviors are not uncommon for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. Family caregivers often feel understandably embarrassed when they are trying to cope with a senior loved one’s behavior in public. Having a primary care physician who specializes in gerontology like your fathers can really help.

As far as flu shots, I recommend you talk with your father’s physician for the final word but I think she or he will likely advise you that your father should receive the vaccine. Even though he had it later in last year’s flu season, he will need a new vaccine to protect him from this year’s strains of the flu. He is probably at greater risk for complications of flu and will likely be at higher risk for contracting the virus if he goes to an adult day center a few days a week. It might be beneficial to have him get the flu shot at his geriatrician’s office instead of the adult day center if you think they are better equipped to handle his behaviors.

Finally, you might be interested in this story we shared with readers during last year’s flu season. Flu Shot Questions from Alzheimer’s Caregivers in Michigan addressed some of the questions we commonly receive about the flu from family members who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

I hope this information helps, Gretchen!

Donna

 

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